Girls Like Boys

The Tarot Cards

Travis’s house was dark when we pulled onto his street. At night, the place looked like an abandoned warehouse forgotten on the outskirts of town. Travis hooked a left into the driveway and hit the button to open the little garage. The headlights flashed on the back wall as Travis pulled and shut the car off, leaving us in complete darkness. 

The garage door started to shut behind us as I unbuckled and climbed out. I caught Travis’s eye as I rounded the back of the car. “What?” I asked, stepping around the other vehicle in the garage, heading for the door into the house. 

Travis stepped up behind me to follow. “Are you good?” he asked. “You drank a lot.” He slid past me to unlock the door, jangling his keys and throwing his weight into nudging it open. 

I nodded noncommittally. “I feel a little light-headed,” I admitted, taking the single step into the house, “but I’m fine.” 

Trav flicked the lights on, and the pit lit up. The doors along the right wall were all firmly shut, and the kitchen was still dark. Travis kicked his shoes off near the door and nodded in that direction. “You should eat something,” he said, tossing his keys onto the little table and checking his pockets for his wallet. When I didn’t respond right away, he reached out and touched my arm, calling my attention back to him.

“What?” I asked again dumbly, shaking off the tiredness that settled in my bones.

Trav smiled and grabbed my hand. “C’mon,” he said, “lets get you to bed, and I’ll get you something to eat.” 

We crossed the pit and the cars sat in the middle of Travis’s home. We took to the spindle stairs, Travis holding onto me the whole way up and across the second floor catwalk. He led me to his bedroom and threw the door open, letting go of me when we were in the center of the room. I dived straight for his platform bed - the blankets still in disarray from when I climbed in earlier. Travis groaned and rounded back to the chairs near the window that overlooked the pit. The curtains were thrown open, and the light from downstairs illuminated Travis’s room too.

Trav grabbed my backpack from one of the chairs and headed back to me. “You should change,” he said, tossing the black bag into the bed. “Or at least take your shoes off.”

Half under Travis’s covers, I eyed the wedges and the laces holding them tight to my feet. The dark haired boy sighed and stepped forward. He kneeled down at the edge of his bed and took to the laces, yanking the suede wedges off and tossing them on the floor. When he was done, I smiled and curled into his bed, pulling his dark blankets up over my shoulders. 

Travis shook his head as he got to his feet. He grabbed for the edge of the comforter and dragged it off me. “You have to change, Cody,” he said, pushing my backpack toward me. He glanced at my ripped jeans and then unzipped the bag. “Change, and I’ll go to get something to eat.”

He ducked out of the room, closing the bedroom door behind him, and I begrudgingly grabbed for the bag and the items I’d tucked inside earlier today. I shoved tomorrow’s clothes out of my way and dragged a t’shirt and shorts out from the bottom. My brush and deodorant tumbled to the floor, and I glared down at them, contemplating getting out of bed to pick them up. With a huff, I set my pajamas on the bed and tossed the backpack down on top of the fallen items. 

I dragged my sweater over my head and pulled on my baggy shirt instead. I shimmied out of my jeans and kicked them to the end of Travis’s bed before sliding into the silky basketball shorts. Travis’s bedroom door opened just as I pulled my hair out of the ponytail. Trav nodded.

“Sandwiches,” he said, setting a large plate down in the center of the bed. He tossed two water bottles down too and continued over to his dresser, which sat against the far wall, parallel to the bed. He’d kicked his shoes off downstairs, but he quickly unbuttoned and stepped out of pants, dragging a pair of shorts out of his dresser. He yanked his shirt over his head as he turned around and came back to the bed. 

Trav grinned as a I took a bite of my sandwich. “You’re gonna choke if you don’t slow down,” he said, smirking slightly. He jumped into bed, grabbing the other as he went. 

“I’m not that drunk, Travis,” I said, leaning back against the wall. “I know how to eat without killing myself.” 

He nodded, smiling. “Good to know, Code.” He passed me a water. “You still feeling dizzy?” 

I took another bite and shook my head. “No,” I said as I swallowed, “just tired.” I pushed the empty plate toward him, away from me, and scooted down so that I was under the covers and laying with my head on the pillow. I turned to my side, facing him, with the last of my sandwich and closed my eyes. 

Travis chuckled, causing me to blink my eyes open and look to him. I took another bite and raised my eyebrows at him, waiting for him to say something. I finished off my food as he answered. 

“I’m going to miss you when you’re gone,” he said, setting the plate and the rest of his sandwich on the side table. “I don’t know how I’ll survive without you hogging most of my bed.” 

I frowned and glanced around us. I moved to scoot back to my side, and Travis shook his head. He slipped down so he was laying next to me and pulled me closer to him, back into the middle of his bed. My head ended up on his shoulder, and I felt his arms go around me, curling me into his side. I braced my forearm on his bare chest, pressing my fingers into the tattoo there.

Travis noticed me noticing it. He tilted his head down to see. “That’s probably my favorite one,” he said, reaching up to run his fingers over the ink. When he chuckled, I look up to him, surprised. He met my eyes with his dark green ones. “You were frowning,” he said, tucking his arm behind his head. 

I shook my head, brushing my cheek against his shoulder. “It’s not my favorite,” I answered easily. “The one on the back of your neck is.”

This time, Travis frowned. “I got that on a whim,” he said, shaking his head at the tiny rifle tattooed at the base of his skull. “I wanted to be a badass.”

I laughed, and Travis pasted an affronted look on his face. He backed up just enough to make me pull my head off him. “Did you just giggle at me, Cody?” he asked, eyebrows raised. 

I shook my head, grinning, trying my best not to laugh. “I didn’t,” I defended. “You’re a total badass.”

Travis’s eyes narrowed, barely noticeable in the dim lighting. “You thought I was when we first met,” he reminded me. “If I’m remembering this right, you thought that I was running drugs.”

I sighed and reached out to touch his face. “That’s not badass; that’s just stupid, Trav.” I laughed again as his expression changed, shifting into surprise before he rolled his eyes and dropped back down onto the mattress. 

“Fine, insult me before you leave me for six weeks. I see how you are, Code.” He dragged the blankets up over his bare stomach and turned his head to look at me, lips pressed together as his hunter eyes took me in.

I touched his chin, his cheek, my blue eyes meeting his. Travis took a ragged breath and turned to his side. His fingers touched my face before sliding into my hair behind my ear. I gasped, breathing in his air, as his mouth touched mine.

Travis touching me was nothing new - his fingers between mine, his shoulder brushing against me as we walked, his arms holding my body to his chest as we slept in my too-small dorm bed. But this - this was something different, something intentional. Travis’s fingers found new places - the strip of bare skin between my shirt and shorts, the soft spot at the base of my head, the dangerous place behind my ear. His knee parted mine as he climbed over me, bracing himself with his elbow. His mouth, although not completely foreign to me after the introduction in his car months ago, felt incomprehensible. I reacted immediately, grabbing at his bare sides, his face, his hair. I couldn’t explain how we got here, but I reveled in the feel of Travis’s weight on me.

Travis’s fingers trailed up and over my ribs, touching each one like he was counting the bones beneath my skin. My shirt rode up with every rib, and Travis sat up when he’d lost count. “Cody,” he said, voice crackly and breathless. “Cody.”

I opened my eyes, seeing Travis for the first time, and pushed my hair out of my face. I blinked at the sight of Travis above me, sitting with his knees on either side of my hips, shirtless, breathless, green eyes a little too serious as he cast off the wildness that ravaged there moments before. “Travis,” I said.

“What are we doing?” he asked, whispering in the silence of his room. He didn’t pull his eyes from me, didn’t glance to my bare stomach or the shirt rucked up beneath my chest.

“Kissing,” I said in answer, reaching for his wrist as he pushed his fingers through his hair. His expression was pained, confused, and I wrapped my fingers around his wrist, stopping him, holding him in place.

“Cody,” Travis repeated, looking down at me again.

What, Travis?” I asked. “What?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” he said, shaking his head. “I wasn’t thinking like you’re you. I was thinking like you’re somebody else. Like, anyone else who’s ever been here, with me. But it’s different with you, Code. You know that.”

I frowned and let him go. “That doesn’t make any sense,” I said.

“I can’t sleep with you like that, Cody,” he said, his bluntness taking my words from me. “I didn’t meant to – I’m sorry that I…”

Seeing Travis there, feeling guilty for touching and kissing and wanting me, had me shaking my head, touching his arm, reaching to cradle his face, to stop his apologies. I didn’t know how to explain to Travis that he wasn’t a badass, that he could never be the kind of aloof and stoic person he admired and aspired to be. Travis thought too much, felt too much, and cared too much about how he impacted other people. To those who didn’t know him, he was a twenty-one year old street racer from Alabama who lived too fast and never thought twice about what he said. But to the rest of us, those who slept in the same four walls, spent night after night listening to conversations about his cars and laughing at all the blunt words that spilled out of his mouth – to the rest of us – he was more than a boy who raced cars and had money that he shouldn’t have.

He was more than an engineering major who spent every day with his cousin, Leo, the street racer turned football star. He was more than just the boy who made up for an awkward first-kiss-with-an-agenda by redoing it in the darkness of an expensive car. He was more than my best friend. He was everything good about Alabama, every reason I didn’t want to go home, every second thought and favorite class. He was his head on my shoulder in the middle of class. He was his fingers between mine and oblivious comfort when others noticed, and he didn’t care. He was the bathtub rituals, and the two of us curled up between the porcelain walls. Travis was relentless ambition and unapologetically himself.

So tonight, in his room, in the dark, in his bed, when he turned to me and met my mouth with his own, we were no questions, no fear, no second-guesses. “Travis,” I spoke, pressing my palm into his, slipping my fingers between his. “Why can’t we be that way?”

Stunned, Travis’s expression calmed into an unreadable mask. “What?” he said, the words not registering.

I tightened my grip on his hand. “I don’t know,” I said quietly, “but this – ” I shifted beneath him, and my veins burned as he blushed in the darkness. “This, Travis," I repeated, "doesn’t scare me. I know you, and I know that it won’t change anything with us. You and I are solid.”

Travis smiled, slightly, confused. “We’re golden, Cody,” he said, repeating the promises from the ride home. “But that doesn’t mean that we should add sex to our usual list of activities.”

I grinned. “Why not?”

Travis let go of my hand and grabbed both my wrists instead, holding them between us. “Because it isn’t part of your usual activities.”

I huffed, calming my expression. “Really, Trav? What do you think Jack and I do when we’re at his apartment all the time?”

Travis stiffened, his fingers tightening on my wrists. “You’re joking.”

I grinned, watching his eyes narrow into a glare. “Of course I’m joking,” I answered, shaking my head at him. “But I don’t understand why we can’t.”

“Code, you’re a virgin,” Trav said, not shying away from this conversation. “It’s just not the same as me hooking up with other girls from around campus. Me and them – we’re casual.”

I frowned at him. “So, because I’ve never hooked up with someone, I can never hook up with someone? That doesn’t make any sense. Am I supposed to die a virgin? Is there some unwritten rule that you’re supposed to lose it before college, because you think someone would’ve mentioned that during orientation.”

“Cody,” Travis said, trying to stop my rant. “Cody, no, shut up and listen to me.” He let go of my wrists as I kept talking and leaned forward to press his palm over my mouth. “Are you done?” he asked when I stopped rambling.

In answer, I licked his hand.

He pulled away immediately, rocking back so that he was sitting on my hips again. “That’s disgusting,” he complained, reaching forward to wipe my spit off on my shirt.

I gave him a look. “You just had your tongue in my mouth,” I said. “How is that worse?”

Trav tried to suppress his grin. “See,” he said, shaking his head. “This is why we can’t do this.” He motioned to me and to him.

“Why?” I asked again, shoving him off of me. “Because we’re friends? Do you only sleep with strangers? What happens if you sleep with the same girl twice? Are you not allowed to call her a friend? Like, once you know her name, is it over? It seems like it would take a lot of effort to keep finding strangers to have sex with when you could just let yourself be with friends.”

Travis rolled off and sat next to me while I spoke. He sat cross-legged and folded his arms across his chest as I talked, obviously unamused by my rambling. “Cody, seriously?” he asked, cutting me off. “Stop being ridiculous.”

“Okay,” I said bluntly, pushing myself up so that I was sitting against the wall. “I just have one question and then I’ll stop.” I looked to him, waiting.

Travis nodded, sighing in annoyance. “Fine, one question.”

I nodded. “Tell me,” I started, “will you not sleep with me because you don’t want to or do you actually want to, but you won’t because one: I’m a virgin, or two: we’re friends? Or I guess, one and two; we’re friends and I’m a virgin.”

Travis frowned. “What if it’s neither of those things?”

“I really don’t see any other options, Travis,” I said, meeting his eyes. “The only other thing I can think of is that you’re just not attracted to me, and since you basically just attacked my face, I’m going to assume that’s not the reason.”

“I did not attack you,” he retorted, looking to me with defensive eyes. “And also, that question was like four questions, just so you know,” he said, shaking his head, “but since we’re friends, I’ll go ahead and try to answer them for you.”

I rolled my eyes but nodded for him to go ahead then.

“Okay,” he said, straightening up. He rested his hands on his tattooed knees and looked up to me. “First of all, we already have a good thing going, and even though there’s not a lot of things that could change that, this might actually be one of them.”

He shot me a look when I was about to rebut. “Continuing,” he said, glaring at me, daring me to speak. “It’s late, and I’m not sure if you’re making the most well-informed decision. We’ve been drinking, and we’re both tired, so maybe we shouldn’t make big decisions like this when we’re not at full capacity.”

“I’m sober,” I quipped before snapping my mouth closed. Travis eyed me.

“Third, you leave in less than seventy-two hours.”

“Okay, but how is that a condition?” I asked, speaking up and over him before he had a chance to shut me down again. “What does that have to do with the idea that we shouldn’t do this? If anything, it should encourage us. What if I leave, and my dad never lets me come back? It’s like in the 40s when all those young people kept having sex before the men had to go off to war. They did it in the name of patriotism, Travis. This is like that.”

Travis balked at me. “You really are crazy,” he said. “You’re comparing this, tonight, with going off to fight in the war? I’ll see you again in a few weeks, Cody.”

I shook my head and held my hand up for him to be quiet. “Since I’m already invalidating your points, I might as well continue,” I said. “I already told you that I’m sobered up, so I’m not going to elaborate. I’m not tired, and I’m perfectly capable of making decisions. As for the idea that this would somehow ruin our friendship, what happened to ‘we’re solid, Cody’? I really don’t think your points have a leg to stand on, Travis.”

Travis smiled despite himself and shook his head, slightly amused even though he didn’t want to admit it. “You really want to do this?”

My heart hiccupped in my chest. I nodded. “If you really don’t want to, Travis, that’s fine. I get it. If you're being serious and saying no, then I understand.”

Travis frowned and scooted forward until his knees were touching my thigh. “Cody, what are you thinking?” he asked, grabbing my leg with one hand, anchoring himself to me.

“I don’t want to push you into it,” I answered. “I want to, but I was really just joking with all of that. If you don’t want to, if you’re not into me like that, then you don’t have to explain yourself, Trav. I’ve seen the girls that you -”

Travis grabbed my chin, turning my face to him. “You’ve seen them?” he repeated. “What’s that supposed to mean, Cody? Why does it matter what the girls look like?”

I shook out of his hold. “If I’m not you’re type then I –”

“Oh, fuck, Cody,” Travis said, rushing forward to cup my face with both hands. He moved so that he was sitting directly in front of me, rather than to my side. “Cody,” he said, “you’re fucking crazy if you think that I don’t want to have sex with you because I don’t think you’re attractive. I do, I swear to god, I do. Which is why I couldn’t fucking keep my hands off of you tonight. I’m trying to be the responsible one here, Code. I’m trying to make good decisions. I don’t want you to regret this and then leave for six weeks. I don’t want you to spend that entire time regretting it. I don’t want you to resent me. But, you should know that I think you’re fucking gorgeous, Cody, and I would kill to be with you if things were different.”

I frowned. “If what was different?”

Travis sighed and rocked back on his heels, letting go of me. “When I met you,” he said, “I thought you and I would hook up eventually and that would be the end of it. I didn’t think you’d become one of my best fucking friends. I want you to be my best friend more than I want to sleep with you.”

“When I met you, I thought you were stalking me,” I commented.

Travis grinned.

“We can still be best friends,” I said, shrugging. “But I know that even if we don’t sleep together, it’s still going to cross my mind here and there.”

Trav laughed. “That’s because you need to get laid, Code.”

I grinned and nodded. “Well, it’s either you or Jack,” I said, laughing at Travis’s reaction.

“Don’t you have any nice guys back home that you can seduce?” he asked quickly. “You’ll be there for weeks. You’re going to need something fun to do.” He smirked at me.

“I’ll be under Charlie’s watchful eye,” I retorted, elbowing the dark-haired boy. “There’s no way I’ll be in any boy’s house long enough to take my clothes off.”

Trav shook his head, really considering. “What about that one guy?” he asked, frowning as he tried to remember. “Jackass’s roommate. Tyler, or something.”

“Tristan,” I corrected, frowning. “I can’t do that to Jack. He’d definitely find out, and I’m not even interested in Tristan like that. He’s too sweet not to feel attached.”

“So you’re saying that you just want sex, and Tristan won’t work because he’d actually want to date you?” Trav repeated, eyebrows raised at me. “Wow, Code, I didn’t know you were so hardcore.”

I scoffed and chucked one of the pillows at him. “You’re not funny.”

Trav shrugged. “That’s subjective. Also, I don’t know why you’re worrying about Jack’s feelings. If you don’t like him like that, then he’s going to have to get used to it. You’re an adult. You’re allowed to have a life.”

“Yeah, but I’m not going to sleep with his roommate,” I retorted. “I’m not that cruel.” I sighed and pushed my hair out of my face. I gathered it up and retied it into a ponytail to keep it out of my eyes. I glanced over to Travis’s side of the bed. “Are you going to eat that?”

Trav grinned and shook his head. He crawled over and grabbed the rest of his abandoned sandwich. When he passed it over, I said, “Maybe I should give Jack a chance. If anything, I know if I climb into his bed in my pajamas, he won’t reject me.”

Travis pressed his palm over his heart. “That hurts, Cody Carrigan.”

I shrugged. “I’m just telling the truth.”

Trav frowned. “You’re serious?” he asked. “You’d really sleep with Jack just to get it over with? It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have sex, Cody. You don’t have to rush out and get it over with.”

I crossed my legs and frowned at him. “I wasn’t just trying to ‘get it over with’ with you, Travis,” I said, shaking my head. “But I know that it’s weird for guys when the girl is a virgin, so maybe getting it done and over isn’t such a bad thing.”

“Cody…” Travis trailed off, looking at me in a way that made it hard to look back. “What was it?” he asked. “With me tonight. What was it?”

“You were kissing me, Travis,” I said, “and I started thinking. You’re beautiful and you’re my favorite person in this entire state, and I can imagine what it would be like to be with you. And it’s always felt impossible, like it’s such a big deal to have sex with someone, but when you kissed me, it felt easy, Travis. It felt like it wasn’t a big deal at all. That’s how it always is with me and you, Trav. Effortless. And I wanted to hold onto that.”

Travis put his fingers in his hair again, and he looked at me, and I could see his chest rising and falling as he thought. Every breath mimicked the mess in his head, yes, no, yes, no. When he sat up on his knees, my eyes went wide for a split second. Travis paused, holding my gaze, questioning, and I nodded. He leaned forward, his fingers anchoring at the back of my neck.

"This feels normal for me too, Code," he said quietly, green eyes baring into mine. "I don't know if this is the right decision, but it feels right. And if we both want this..."

I nodded. Travis kissed me again. I fell back against his pillows and Travis came too, his knee slipping between mine, his free hand on my waist. The weight of him on me pushed the air out of my lungs, and I reveled in the sensation.

This time, Travis counted my ribs and took my shirt completely off. His lips touched the place where my shoulder and neck met, and my breath hitched, uneven and nervous, despite how much I wanted this. When Travis’s shorts came off, it wasn't a shock. I couldn't count the number of times he’d slept in briefs and nothing else. But this, again, was something new. I could feel the core of him and the intention in his movements. He said my name at every step and I echoed his back in return – our own version of yes, keep going, I’m sure.

When I was naked in Travis’s bed, I closed my eyes as his roamed over me. He touched my arm, my waist, my thighs. He breathed my name quiet in the silence of his empty house. His room was dark, save for the light coming in from the window overlooking the downstairs. Travis got out of bed and walked to the dresser in his underwear. I opened my eyes and watched him in the dimness.

He rifled through one of the top drawers, and I knew what he was looking for. I could feel my pulse in my fingers. Trav grinned when he turned around, the condom between his fingers. “You look like you’re going to throw up,” he said.

“Stop smirking at me,” I retorted. “It’s normal to be nervous.”

He grinned. “Yeah,” he agreed, “but it’s me, Code.”

I rolled my eyes at his cockiness.

He smirked deeper. “Do you want to put this on, or should I?” He tossed the little packet at me and laughed when I flinched back.

“Knock it off,” I said, a smile in my voice as I threw it back at him. “You do it.”

He sighed obnoxiously and rolled his eyes. “I have do to everything.” He grinned when he saw the look on my face, and then slipped his fingers into the waistband of his boxers. The smile slipped from his face as he took the last of his clothes off. His eyes stayed on me as I watched, and I caught the expression he wore as he noticed me. His lips parted and he ushered out a deep, shaky breath.

“You okay over there?” I asked.

Trav looked up and nodded. “Yeah, it’s just… a little much.”

“What is?” I frowned.

Trav breathed, “Having you look at me like that.”